Fwd: Re: Anarchism / Marxism debates

Charles Brown CharlesB at CNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Thu Aug 19 07:28:29 PDT 1999

>>> Jim heartfield <jim at heartfield.demon.co.uk> 08/18/99 05:42PM >>>
In message <37BAE632.69CA68E9 at ecst.csuchico.edu>, Michael Perelman <michael at ecst.csuchico.edu> writes
>Actually, Jim H. was correct. Marx's new wants, however, were not SUV's. He
>examples of newspapers, books, .... Not GM foods.

What, you mean that Marx did not anticipate the revolution in genetic science in the 1970s? Shame on him. I'm not sure that Marx would not have appreciated the considerable extension in the range of working class diets, something he wrote very forcefully on.


Charles: I don't think that being pro-science necessarily means being an anarchist-individualist about the products of science, believing that any and all theories and their practices and products advance humanity. Something can be a thing-in-itself, an objective reality, and discovered by a scientist. But, that does not automatically mean it is a thing-for-us. And I do mean "us" and not "I". So, an individual or group of scientists might discover some fact, but the impact on "us" as a whole may not be progressive. For example, Einstein and following physicists discovered some true things-in-themselves, some sure enough facts, but a main fruit of this has been the poisonness nuclear weapons, things-against-us, anti-use values.

I am not blaming Einstein , really, I still admire him. I am still that much in the bourgeois academy's habits and enthusiasms. An individual scientist could not carry this out. It would have to be a code in the community of scientists. For, we can't afford another discovery by our greatest minds that leads to something like nuclear weapons. Scientists have to take the responsibility to connect their work to society as a whole, as part of the division of labor of the whole human race. They must see that the criterion of truth is not just practice in the sense that it works , but it is a transformation of a thing-in-itself into a thing-for-us. With the last transformation as important as the objective determination of things-in-themselves.


On Charles' point, I can appreciate that some products are palpably non- use values, such as, for example, nuclear weapons. However, it is a big step from that to say that flashy cars, or stereo-systems, or fashionable clothes, or breast implants, or cigarettes are non-use values. That would be to presume to substitute oneself for the mass of consumers for whom these things are important. You or I might disapprove of one or more of such items, but it is not for us to decide what is and what is not a use value, it is for the user.


Charles: In one sense, trusting the People's decisonmaking is fundamental to a democratic attitude. However, democracy everywhere in bourgeois society, including in consumer decisions, is distorted beyond compare. The "votes" of consumers, "buyers" or customers are as corrupted as those of most voters in elections in the U.S. today.

And in a different way than in the old days when thinking was distorted among the masses. Today, with the "information" explosion, the ruling class has an opposite strategy of befuddling with overload instead of stupifying with lack of information. This is true in politics and economics, including consumption.

In this context, the new wants that are created are more and more anti-use values , from the objective or social standpoint. That doesn't mean there are not new use values (true from the objective social standpoint) discovered. But with anarchy at the level of the social whole, the public, non-private, there is no rational determination of use-value as social use-value. Marx always has "social" in parenthesis when he discusses "use-value". The capitalist "social" determination of use-values is defective in the many ways that Marx especially demonstrated. So, wholesale endorsement of the use-values or wants created by capitalism is not Marxism.


It might well be that such things are no longer valued in the socialist Jerusalem, but we are not there yet, and such flawed imperfect creatures are mankind that they do indeed value such things. It is not for us to try mankind before the lofty tribunal of 'really-useful' or not. Such decisions must come from them.


Charles: In capitalism, consumer decisions come from "them" , the People, in form but , less and less in substance. Consumer democracy under capitalism is more and more a hoax , as is voter democracy. The bourgeoisie have perfected corrupting their own democratic institutions. Their skill at this distortion is greater than ever in history, as they have learned from their own history. The decisions are coming from "them", the bourgeoisie, with the false appearance of coming from "us" ("Us" as in "We, the People", and things-for-US).

Charles Brown

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